What are Cognitive Assessments for Children and Adolescents?

Cognitive Testing for Children

Cognition is the mental process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience and our senses. Your child is continually learning and experiencing the world, in order to develop their cognition.  Sometimes a school teacher, guidance officer, or a parent may notice some strengths and weaknesses in your child’s cognition, or may comment on a particular learning style they have.  In order for your child to continue to develop and learn, a cognitive assessment is helpful to identify the areas of strengths and weaknesses that they may be experiencing.  When interpreted along with comprehensive background information, parent and teacher reports, the results of cognitive assessments can provide information about your child which can assist to develop individualised learning plans for children.

What is an IQ test?

Another word for a cognitive assessment is an IQ test or Intellectual Quotient test.  A series of activities are administered by an accredited psychologist to assess various areas of cognitive ability including:

  • Verbal Comprehension – measures the child’s range of vocabulary and their ability to express general knowledge and explain concepts 
  • Visual Spatial – measures the child’s verbal reasoning, understanding, concept formation and knowledge
  • Fluid Reasoning – measures the child’s ability to solve novel problems independent of previous knowledge
  • Working Memory – measures the child’s ability to learn, manipulate and retain information to complete new tasks
  • Processing Speed – measures the child’s ability to quickly process and make decisions about visual information

Reasons for Cognitive Assessments

Cognitive assessments are often used with children who are experiencing academic issues at school.  Common concerns may include:

-identifying intellectual disabilities
-identifying and diagnosing learning disabilities and disorders
-evaluating cognitive processing strengths and weaknesses
-assessing for giftedness
-assessing for the impact of brain injuries

Types of Assessments

The type of assessment used will depend on your child’s age:

Ages 4 to 7 years and 3 months – WPPSI-IV Wechsler Preschool & Primary Scale of Intelligence Fourth Edition

Ages 6 to 16 years 11 months – WISC-V Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children Fifth Edition

Cognitive assessments are conducted in a testing room that is quiet and has minimal distraction for your child.  The word “test” will not be used with the child, and will instead be replaced by the words “puzzles and games”, to create a more relaxed environment for your child.


Process of Cognitive Testing 

1.    Initial appointment with parent and child – background information is gathered from the parents, including developmental history, academic ability, medical issues, family relationships, and issues raised by the parents in order to gather a holistic picture of your child’s environment. 
2.    Testing over one or two session – depending on your child’s ability and willingness to test, the testing will be done over one or two sessions
3.    Scoring and interpreting results – each assessment will be scored and interpreted against standardised results
4.    Report writing – the behavioural observations of your child during testing will be recorded, along with the results of the testing, and recommendations
5.    Feedback session – the psychologist will discuss the outcomes of the testing in this session and provide recommendation for parents and schools as required
For further information please access The Australian Psychological Association’s website https://www.psychology.org.au/community/topics/psych_testing/FAQs/